Review - 'Halloween' (2018)
David Gordon Green and company had huge shoes to fill when they decided to wipe the slate clean of the numerous Halloween sequels in favor of their self-proclaimed “real” sequel that takes place 40 years after the original. It’s easy to be better than the sequels, but it’s not easy to live up to the first film, which has had four decades to age like a fine wine into one of the most iconic horror films of all time. Having seen the new film, I can now say that that the bastards pulled it off! And my jaw is in a bloody heap on the floor.
As noted above, Halloween takes place 40 years after the events of the first film. Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) has suffered extreme PTSD since then and has holed herself up in an excluded house and is armed to the teeth in the event of Michael ever escaping the confines of the mental hospital/prison in which he has been kept. As fate would have it; Michael escapes and the cat-and-mouse game begins once more. Only this time, who is the cat and who is the mouse?
I’ve been a fan of the original John Carpenter Halloween ever since it was first introduced to me at the (probably too young) age of 10 or 11. What started out in my mind as one of the most terrifying films grew into something more than just a scary movie over time. I began to understand the dynamic between Michael Myers and Laurie Strode with much more clarity and was able to look upon Halloween with a deeper appreciation. I’m sorry, but there’s something so much more enticing about Michael Myers and Laurie Strode when compared to a lunk-head like Jason Voorhees who kills a fresh batch of nobodies in each film, and that lies in Michael’s unshakable ties with Laurie Strode that endure from film to film. That’s what’s so great about this newest Halloween. David Gordon Green and company understand the dynamic and capitalize off of it in the best ways possible. Laurie Strode is the best she has ever been here, Michael Myers is the most terrifying he has ever been here, and their inevitable confrontation bares fruit because of that understanding.
There are times during Halloween (2018) where I literally got chills. The kinds of chills when something you witness is done so well that you can’t believe you’re actually seeing it transpire before your eyes. Maybe it’s just because it has been so long since Halloween has been good, but there are genuine moments here that took me all the way back to the first time I saw the original film. That said, this film is not just trying to pay homage, it also builds off of the foundation of the original in a meaningful way, and even does some things better. In ignoring all of the sequels, Halloween 2018 is able to stand on the shoulders of the giant that started it all. If this film would have tried to deal with the continuity of the franchise as a whole, it would have been dead in the water. Instead, we have a stripped-down story that keeps the motivations simple and therefor, the emotions feel more raw and meaningful.
One fascinating aspect about Halloween 2018 is that there are now three generations of Strodes; the now-grandmother Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie, Laurie’s daughter Karen who is also the mother to Allyson. All of these characters behave differently, but they each carry similar traits, and they all have a big part to play in the conclusion of the film. Jamie Lee Curtis plays Laurie Strode much in the way Linda Hamilton portrayed Sarah Connor in T2: Judgment Day. She’s hardened and a little bit of a basket-case but still vulnerable and human. There’s such an honesty to Jamie Lee Curtis which by default makes her one of the easiest heroines to root for. Then we have Michael Myers, and who better to play him than the original “shape”, Nick Castle. Michael Myers doesn’t emote much, but oddly I could still tell that it was the same guy and he actually manages to do a lot with a little. Nobody cocks his head amusingly to the side like Nick Castle while wearing that not-very-Shatner mask. In addition to this, Michael is far more menacing here than he has ever been before. He does not discriminate in his killings and he truly is evil incarnate like Loomis said so long ago. Also, the body count here is high and the killings do not skimp on the bloodletting, so if you’re a gorehound this film should whet your appetite for the time being.
Another thing that’s great about Halloween 2018 is that there’s no CGI trickery anywhere to be found here. This is a full-on practical movie. I don’t think Halloween films have ever used much computer generated effects work in the past, but it’s just nice to point it out anyway. The use of lighting here is outstanding particularly in one tracking shot where Michael is going about his business in a neighborhood full of trick ‘r treaters. You’ll know it when you see it. And last but not least: the score. John Carpenter returned to score this latest Halloween, and the music here is perfect. The classic Halloween theme is back and it’s better than ever. Carpenter smartly slow-burns the music throughout the first two-thirds of the film, implementing ominous synths and subtle piano renditions of the original theme, only to ramp things up in the most bloodcurdling and perfect way when the horror hits a fever-pitch.
There are a few small flaws with the film, but mostly they’re negligible. Judy Greer gets one unfortunate line that just falls completely flat and feels out-of-place. The rest of her performance is great, but that single moment really doesn’t work. Also, there’s one sequence where Michael finds himself in a boy’s closet, and I can not for the life of me figure out how he got there and why he was there except to just give us a good jump scare. It’s still a fun sequence, but it’s not set up with as much care as the rest of the film is. There’s also a slight overload of characters in the first half of this film and we’re constantly jumping from one group to the next. Fortunately, Michael thins the herd pretty quickly which forces the story to streamline.
Very small nit-picks aside, Halloween 2018 is a remarkable return to form. David Gordon Green and all of the people that helped him bring this vision to life really seemed to have their fingers on the pulse of what makes Halloween great. If you even remotely enjoyed the first film and dig the slasher genre, this is a must-see.